Supporting Vietnam’s strive for sustainability

May 16, 2022 | 14:00
Vietnam’s first sustainability community for innovation is set to bolster global partnerships and enhance knowledge. Mark Ratcliff, sustainability specialist at Except Integrated Sustainability, explains how this initiative can facilitate new collaborative business models to support the shift to sustainability and attract more investment.
Supporting Vietnam’s strive for sustainability
Mark Ratcliff, sustainability specialist at Except Integrated Sustainability

Whether we acknowledge it or not, sustainability is and always has been our most important goal. Collectively, we have gotten away with pushing it aside for too long. We can no longer ignore it, but realizing sustainability beyond a marketing slogan is easier said than done. Many countries are falling behind, and without a systemic shift to a more long-term mindset, Vietnam will also flounder and fail to achieve its bold National Green Growth Strategy for 2021-2030.

Nevertheless, things are not as gloomy as they seem. Except Integrated Sustainability, a Dutch consultancy and design firm, has initiated ViCo, Vietnam’s first sustainability community for innovation. It aims to bolster worldwide partnerships, enhance learning, and help with new joint business models to support the shift to sustainability and attract more funding.

Vietnam is perfectly positioned to prosper and, with the support of ViCo, can become a shining example of sustainability in Southeast Asia and beyond.

The recent boom in environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investments proves sustainability has finally moved beyond a buzzword. Beginning in Europe several years ago and moving to the United States, the next wave of sustainable or green investing has already started in Asia. Reports confirm this trend, stating that ESG assets will likely outstrip past predictions and exceed $41 trillion in 2022 and account for a third of all global managed assets by 2025.

Increased government mandates and more demand from consumers will see trends continue to grow, and a sustainable business model will soon be essential to attracting investments and partnerships. Many investors are already looking to partner with sustainability-driven companies, and ViCo can help Vietnamese businesses find these partners and prevent them from being left behind.

Sustainability communities facilitate more cooperative workspaces that enhance connectivity, systemic solutions, and the quality of innovations
Sustainability communities facilitate more cooperative workspaces that enhance connectivity, systemic solutions, and the quality of innovations

Global sustainability know-how in a Vietnamese context

Except is a social enterprise that prioritises purpose over profit. Having recently opened a local office in Vietnam, they are dedicated to helping Vietnam make the shift to a more sustainable economy. With over 20 years of experience in groundbreaking projects for cities, industry, and business strategy, we have been involved in sustainability longer than most and can genuinely lay claim to being a pioneer.

Except have worked on a diverse range of projects over the years, from enhancing IKEA’s supply chains and circularity at HEINEKEN, reconceptualising Amsterdam Schiphol Airport’s business precinct, and developing the strategy and design of Salesforce Park in California - the world’s largest rooftop park.

ViCo is Vietnam’s first sustainability community of its type, connecting like-minded members who are driven by long-term and holistic outcomes. Membership is not limited to any particular industry or profession and is driven by a shared vision for collaboration, transparency, and knowledge-sharing. Working across different sectors and professions is vital to the holistic understanding and development of systemic sustainability.

Except has a proven model in UCo, a financially independent innovation and sustainability community in Utrecht, the Netherlands, where they are headquartered. Opening in 2016, it has attracted a variety of organisations, freelancers, and policy-makers, driven by a desire to work together to enhance circular economies and sustainable transformations.

UCo ensures a place where people meet in lush green spaces, attend presentations and training, and easily connect to a vast network of green businesses and investors. This community is key in nurture partnerships, enhancing solutions and ensuring the sustainability of outcomes – a goal and achievement that is easily adaptable and adopted by different cultures – particularly so in Vietnam.

ViCo, like UCo, is a collective of local and international companies driven to enhance not only their own but broader societies’ move towards sustainability. Considering Vietnam’s strong entrepreneurial spirit, economic prosperity, and desire to preserve the vibrant culture and environment, the time is ripe for this kind of community to thrive.

Membership in ViCo is open to organisations of any size, be they large or small businesses, NGOs, or freelancers from any industry or profession, but must be able to show a core practice of sustainability. This variation in company size and type allows organisations to maintain the adaptivity of a small company but benefit from the network and knowledge of a conglomerate.

Vietnam faces challenges in many industries, such as water and energy management, industrial production, agriculture, and urban infrastructure. ViCo embraces diversity and facilitates the cross-sector collaboration that is crucial to ensuring systemic and sustainable solutions.

Supporting Vietnam’s strive for sustainability

An exemplary circular structure

As the country’s economic hub and with its strategic positioning, Ho Chi Minh City will be the first location for a ViCo working and office space in Vietnam. Like UCo in the Netherlands, it will become a shining example of circularity and passive design and actively enhance local biodiversity via extensive internal ecosystems. Designed by Except, ViCo will utilise biobased materials, capture and save over 80 per cent of its water, and become the first energy-neutral office in Vietnam.

ViCo’s structure will be centred around shared working and office spaces. This helps lower overheads but also ensures that relationships, information, and training are more accessible and practical. Unlike a more traditional and casual coworking space, ViCo will be made up of semi-permanent and established organisations already working in Vietnam, offering access to a variety of different office configurations and facilities such as a library and media room.

It will offer a space for up to 300 individuals and will house a public-access cafe and restaurant, allowing users to experience innovative local produce and cuisine. Additionally, it will welcome the broader community through regular events, films, and on-site workshops to showcase and enhance the understanding of the latest developments in sustainability.

ViCo enhances cooperation, knowledge and the quality of innovations and sustainable solutions. Such a sustainability community is a pioneer in Southeast Asia and gives ViCo’s members a leg-up in reaching out and attracting new funders and partnerships. Being at the forefront of this emergent industry will enhance not only members but Vietnam’s global reputation for sustainability and reinforce ViCo and other sustainability centres’ ability to flourish.

Currently, another partner in the sustainability community is under development in Tokyo, and once ViCo is established in Ho Chi Minh City, Except has a roadmap for further sustainability centres in Hanoi, the central city of Danang, and Singapore. Along with these, Except foresees similar sustainability-focused communities and centres soon spanning across Asia, helping to reinforce a solid international network.

The ViCo sustainability community is experiencing rapid growth and interest. With the centre set to open in mid-2023, we are currently focused on expanding partnerships to help secure $3 million in funding.

By Mark Ratcliff

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